20.14% Voting Turnout in Beirut: Beirutis Don’t Want Change … Yet

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bm1 by Yasmine Darwiche

The Beirut municipal elections are over, the turnout was very low (20.14%) when compared to other regions, Beirut Madinati lost and the Beirutis List has won. A lot of people are upset and disgusted by the results, but I think we all knew deep inside that the likelihood of an outside list winning in Beirut is almost impossible especially when all the political blocks in the country rallied against them. So what do we make of these elections?

20.14% Voting Turnout: A very low yet insignificant percentage
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Beirut has always had the lowest voting turnout in Lebanon but this low turnout is due to the fact that a lot of Beirutis live abroad (35% is the unofficial percentage). We need a resident vs non resident stats to understand better this low turnout and analyze how many first-time voters supported Beirut Madinati vs Beirutis list.

Since these numbers are almost impossible to get, the simplest thing is to allow Lebanese expats to vote abroad in order to improve the turnout and give everyone the opportunity to vote. The current electoral law should also be changed for Beirut as it doesn’t make sense to have one municipality for all of Beirut. Decentralization is needed and areas like Achrafieh for example, must have their own municipality for example.

Social Media influence on Elections is still minimal in Lebanon
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If I look at my Facebook timeline in the past 3 weeks, everyone seemed to be supporting Beirut Madinati’s list with one or two exceptions. Everyone was sharing their posts, liking their pictures and videos and confident that they can win. Unfortunately, the growing online buzz for Beirut Madinati did not materialize on the ground and the influence of online social media activists and bloggers is still minimal in the electoral process but is definitely growing and we need to keep pushing further.

Beirut Madinati campaign did not go in vain: Change is coming

As I’ve stated in a previous post, the fact that a well organized non-partisan group is competing against the ruling class is already a major win. Beirut Madinati posed a serious threat to the Beirutis list and forced all the political and sectarian parties to rally against it. These parties have been fighting and attacking each others for years yet somehow felt threatened by a group of candidates that include academics, artists, a famous film director, social activists and the head of a fishing union. They forgot all their differences, joined hands and resorted to ugly and shameful electoral tactics to rally the masses against them. Funnily enough, it’s probably the first time they had to write down an electoral program.

The mere presence of Beirut Madinati is a win and I hope that they will keep their initiative running for the years to come and be even more prepared in the next municipal elections. We need more people that are willing to to step-in and participate actively in the political life to take back what is rightfully ours and Beirut Madinati has paved the way for that.

Things are changing, people are changing but change takes time. It’s a slow and painful process and might take years to achieve but we will get there eventually. We should not despair and surrender that quickly and keep in mind that initiatives like Beirut Madinati were not even possible 6 years ago.

Holding elections is a victory for all Lebanese
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Voting is one of our nation’s most fundamental rights and elections are of utmost importance in any democratic country. Unfortunately, our democracy is not a fully functional one and several blatant violations and electoral fraud were reported yesterday (Source: Beirut Madinati). Nevertheless, movements like Beirut Madinati, with the help of NGOs like LADE for example that are specialized in monitoring elections and detecting violations, can help promote further transparency and fight corruption and bribes.

I am still waiting for the official results to come out to see how close the numbers were between Beirut Madinati and Beirutis List but from what I was told, the difference wasn’t that huge which is a remarkable achievement.

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All in all, change does not happen overnight and all of us need to keep fighting for what we believe in even if we can’t reap the benefits right now. Incremental change is the only way to change the Lebanese system, bring down the establishment and get rid of corruption, sectarianism and replace corrupt and incompetent officials with decent ones.

Till then, let us hold the winning candidates accountable and expose them whenever they break their promises, which they probably will repeatedly.

Caught on Video: Selling Votes for $200 in Zahle

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The Interior Ministry should investigate that video and take the necessary measures. There has been talks since the morning about bribes in Zahle yet the ministry insisted there was no proof. This looks like clear proof to me unless the whole video is fabricated.

In all cases, this needs to be investigated.

Her: Wou iza ro7na 2adde bi2abbedna?
Deghre bi2abdik.
Her: Houwwe 3and Fattoush fo2 3am bi2abdo?
Eh bil Markaz.
Her: 2adde ya3ne chi $200?
Kam chakhess into?
Her: Ne7na chi 4.

Her: Keef Mnestelim el Massare?
Deghre bitsawtle min hone bto2bade min haydek. Henne Mandoubeen honeek.

Municipal Elections: All Polling Stations Should be Wheelchair-accessible

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isf The way they are carrying her up the stairs doesn’t look that safe to be honest

The ISF tweeted earlier today pictures showing officers carrying a woman in a wheelchair up the stairs in order to vote. It’s nice of them but elections sites, some if not all of them, should be wheelchair/walker accessible. All polling stations should be accessible for elderly individuals and people with disabilities as per the 220/2000 law, the 2007 Boutros Commission’s Draft Law25, the 25/2008 Electoral Law26, Enforcement Decree 2214/2009 and the 2010 draft law of Former Interior Minister Ziad Baroud.

Voting is one of our nation’s most fundamental rights and alternative means of voting should be provided in case no accessible location is available to serve as a polling place.

Unfortunately not all security forces were as friendly as those portrayed in the above picture.

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Nadine from NewsRoomNomad wrote more on this matter.

Someone is Suing MTV Over Their Road Safety Campaign

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A Lebanese lawyer apparently got offended by MTV’s brilliant road safety campaign and is planning to sue them. Sandrellah Merhej, the lawyer in question, wants to stop the ad because it is disrespectful to religious symbols (mainly Christian Saints in that case). She even stated that a protest was being planned against MTV but they decided to legally sue MTV instead.

Now isn’t that the most ironic thing ever? someone suing MTV for disrespecting Christianity while MTV keeps bragging about standing for Christian rights in Lebanon? What would be even more ironic and funny is for the lawyer in question to fall into a pothole and ruin her tires on her way to the hearing session.

I personally loved the ad and thought it brilliantly tackled road safety in Lebanon.

[YouTube]

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Beirut Municipality Doesn’t Have a Website

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I was looking online for Beirut Municipality’s website to look for some information only to find that they don’t have one. The website is under construction (since ever?).

I see the Beirutis list got their own website within a couple of weeks time. Let’s see if they will manage to come up with a website for Beirut’s municipality within the next 6 years if they win.

Let’s just hope the municipality will be able to afford a website with only $800 million dollars in surplus.

The Virtual National Museum of Modern Art: The First of Its Kind In Lebanon

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The Ministry of Culture officially launched on Wednesday the Virtual National Museum of Modern Art in Lebanon. This is the first museum of its kind in Lebanon and will feature over 800 artworks including paintings and sculptures from different Lebanese artists.

I was invited to Rome for a couple of days to attend the opening of the Lebanese museum of modern arts last week but it turned out to be a cool stunt by the Ministry to introduce the virtual museum and I got the chance to meet the Minister who explained everything related to that museum, and the gigantic effort that it took to bring this large collection online.

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The virtual museum aims at digitizing the large collection that the Ministry of Culture has, as well as introducing Lebanese here and abroad, and of course art enthusiasts from around the world, to our local talents. You can explore it on [artmodernemv.gov.lb] and there’s an app also available for iOS (iPhone, iPad) & Android users.

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The website is available in four languages (English, Arabic, Spanish & French) and once you click to experience the virtual museum, you will be prompted to enter 4 different “rooms” organized periodically where you will be able to explore the artwork of various Lebanese painters and sculptors. There’s also a section called “Exhibitions” that will showcase artwork by a prominent Lebanese artist every 2-3 months. The first exhibition on display online is for painter Georges Daoud el Korom.

Technically speaking, the website is user-friendly and quite fast. I also tried the Android app and it works perfectly fine. There are few bugs and issues with the website though that I communicated with the concerned people.

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All in all, I loved the initiative as it aims to promote Lebanese modern art to locals and the whole world and will help maintain Lebanon’s arts heritage by digitizing it. Let’s just hope that one day, the Ministry will have enough money to establish a real museum and showcase the 2000+ artistic pieces in its possession.

Here’s a short video to help you experience the virtual museum. (Thank you Wajid from Uf concepts for the editing and the help!)

[YouTube]

PS: If you happen to have an Oculus VR machine, you can enjoy viewing the museum in VR mode.

Note: This post will be sponsored on BlogBaladi’s Facebook page by the Ministry of Culture with my consent of course.

Racist Joke on one of LBC’s TV Shows

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Elie Sleiman on MTV’s Menna w Jor featured two jokes from the LBC TV show Haram as part of his “Joke of the week” section. I’m really glad Sleiman picked up these jokes because one of them is extremely racist and inappropriate (it’s about black people and white chocolate) and that Pierre pointed out that it’s a racist joke, just a lame one.

To be honest, I have no idea how someone approved this script but then again this whole show “Haram” should not be on air.

Start watching at Minute 09:15

[YouTube]

#Sawwet16: Uber Offering Free Rides on Elections Day All Across Lebanon

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Uber Beirut keeps coming up with the coolest campaigns. Only yesterday I was telling my friends how I ordered #UberJanerik and delivered them to my wife. The driver delivered 2 nicely packed boxes of Janerik with a bag of salt for just 4$ to her office. Today, Uber launched a new campaign aiming to encourage voters in Beirut and across Lebanon to cast their vote.

#Sawwet16: Uber wants you to go vote:
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Municipal elections begin this Sunday in Beirut, Bekaa, Baalbeck and Hermel and for that occasion, Uber is offering free rides to and from the polls to help everyone get out and vote.

How does it work?
– Open or download the Uber app.
– Enter promo code ‘Sawwet16’.
– On Election day, request a ride to and from your polling location.

The offer is only valid for 2 rides during polling hours (7am – 7pm). Maximum value per ride is $15.